This is rather belated write up of my Challenge warm up trip to Dartmoor. The death of my previous computer and Challenge preparation has meant that I’ve not been able to write this up until now. Apologies.
My intention was to do a four day circuit of Dartmoor starting and finishing at Okehampton. In the event I did a rather truncated circuit due to weather conditions and other delays. However, I enjoyed some brilliant places to camp and and really good trek around the north moor.
Although it was sunny when I arrived in Exeter, by the time I arrived at Okehampton, the skies were leaden and it had started to rain. After a bit of a false start on my way out of Okehampton (clue follow signs to army camp), I managed to find the Two Castles Way towards Meldon. The persistent, rather than heavy rain stopped me from taking photos, although the trek across the golf course to the accompaniment of traffic noise from the A30 was not very inspiring.
Looking back from Meldon Dam to the viaduct
Just before the Dartmoor Railway Viaduct, the rain relented and I was able to take off my waterproofs. On the other side of the viaduct the valley led up to the Meldon Reservoir dam. There was a slightly tricky stream crossing and I followed the path up to the south eastern corner of the dam and then followed the path along the shore. Approaching the island, I was greeted by the honking of a couple of geese.
Access land at the western end of Meldon Reservoir
At the end of the reservoir, the valley opens out into a nice stretch of flat access land where it is legal to camp. I had a good scout around for a flat pitch and found one almost dead centre. I inspected the bridge at the end of the reservoir, which was barred with barbed wire and Keep Out painted on the gate. My original intention had been to walk along the northern shore and cross by this bridge, so I was glad that I had taken the southerly route instead.
It took a bit longer to pitch the cuben Duomid than it normally would as I played about with a few options. The weather had cheered up a bit and I had a little explore. In several places the land was a bit boggy, but there were also plenty of dry(ish) areas as well. Overnight was cool rather than cold.
Morning looking south
I was up reasonably early and was surprised to see a jogger who did a circuit of the common land and then headed back down the valley. The weather didn’t look too bad but there was quite a cold wind. As I had breakfast I spotted a couple of groups training for the Ten Tors Challenge.
View back down to my camping spot
After breakfast, I crossed the weir and headed towards Sourton Tors and then turned south towards Branscombe Loaf. At Branscombe Loaf, I took off my pack and had a little explore of the tor. By this time the weather had started to look a little less friendly.
Branscombe Loaf Tor
From Branscombe Loaf I headed over some rough moorland towards Woodcock Hill. It was tussocky ground and wet in places, making for slow going. All the time the cloud was getting darker. As I ascended the cold wind became more apparent.
Great Links Tor
Great Links Tor was my next objective. I was a bit surprised when the disused railway cutting appeared from nowhere. I walked a short distance along it before taking the path to Great Links Tor. The climb was a good deal easier than it looked.
On top of the tor, the wind really made itself felt. I sheltered behind some rocks and had a bite to eat. I checked the bearing to Chat Tor and set off. Nearing Chat Tor I spied some figures. As I approached they were talking into two way radios, marshalling Ten Tors participants.
By this time the weather had improved a shade and navigation to Sharp Tor and then Hare Tor was easy. At Hare Tor I paused to climb to the summit. The wind was still pretty fierce. It was getting near lunch time, so I decided to head down to the confluence of Rattle Brook and the River Tavy for lunch.
Confluence of Rattle Brook and River Tavy
I wasn’t prepared for what a magical spot it was. Out of the wind, it was an ideal place to take lunch. It also looked a fantastic place to camp. While it seemed a bit early to be camping, I looked at the weather to the south and the clouds were ominously dark. I pitched the Duomid with the original intention of just using it as a lunch shelter. However, the next leg of the trip would be over exposed moor with the intention of camping high on Great Mis Tor. I was a bit concerned that I might not find a sheltered place to camp (wrong as it turned out), so I decided to stay put.
Camp at Rattlebrook Foot
As it happens I was half vindicated as it started to rain by mid afternoon. Although not heavy it was persistent enough that I would have got quite wet before reaching Great Mis Tor. However, by early evening it petered out. The night was quite cold and I measured minus 2c in the tent. In the morning the grass around the tent and the tent itself was encrusted with frost.
Part 2 to follow.